Wild Virginia sent letters to the office of Governor Ralph Northam on November 21, 2018 asking for records related to two vital issues in the State of Virginia’s actions to regulate the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects.
First, we asked for any documents describing a private meeting between Thomas Ferrell, Dominion Energy’s CEO, the Governor, and DEQ Director David Paylor on November 19th. (See article in Blue Virginia), We believe that while regulatory reviews of ACP are ongoing it is important that our State officials tell us exactly what their relations with the regulated parties are. That’s the principle behind the Freedom of Information Act – that the people know as much as possible about their government and its workings. As stated in the letter to Rita Davis, the Governor’s Counsel, “Governor Northam has repeatedly promised that regulatory processes will be fully transparent and fair.” And while we acknowledged that the Governor may be able shield these records from public view under exemptions in the law, our representatives may waive those exemptions and “[c]oncealment of the information requested in this letter will not be consistent with [the Governor’s] promises.”
Second, we requested records that would reveal the Governor’s process for deciding whether and when to remove members of the Air Pollution Control Board and the State Water Control Board.” The timing of dismissals of two members from each Board, especially the two Air Board members who had expressed concerns about the permit for ACP’s Buckingham compressor station, has raised serious questions as to whether the Governor has sought to influence what are supposed to be independent citizen Boards. All of these members’ terms had expired at the end of June this year and their sudden removals just weeks before the Air Board is to make a final decision on Buckingham air permit, raises serious questions. Was this action taken to influence the outcome of that vote? Can newly-named Air Board members possibly be adequately prepared to judge the complex issues involved by the time the Board meets on December 10? Will this action have a chilling effect on Board members who may question DEQ’s proposals in the future?
Full disclosure in regard to both issues we’ve addressed is necessary and we hope the Governor will live up to the ideals of open and honest government he has espoused. Stay tuned for news of his response to our requests.
Read the FOIA’s here